It’s holiday time, and maybe you’re thinking of buying something really made in America – like tools for a do-it-yourselfer, for example. We often make suggestions about what to buy, and we like to suggest gifts bought from companies who still make tools in this country.
How does this work for them when so many companies are shipping out jobs to other places? Here are answers to questions like that from executives at three tool U.S. manufacturers: Mark Klein, president of Klein Tools of Lincolnshire, Ill.; Jon DeArment, president of Channellock of Meadville, Pa.; and Carie Behe, marketing manager of Leatherman in Portland, Ore. All three make tools that serve tradespeople and do-it-yourselfers; their production can include multitools, pliers, screwdrivers, knives and various hand tools.
Do you produce all your tools in America?
Klein: We manufacture the vast majority of our tools in the U.S.A. We operate seven U.S. manufacturing facilities in five states, and we’ve invested millions in the last decade into those facilities to bring in new equipment and tooling in an effort to expand capacity and quality.
DeArment: More than 90 percent of Channellock tools are made in Meadville, including our blue handle pliers, the majority of our screwdrivers and specialty tools. We employ more than 350 people in Meadville.
Behe: All our tools are manufactured daily by over 400 people in our factory in Portland, Oregon.
Does manufacturing in the U.S. make a difference in quality and why?
Klein: The quality of a tool comes down to three key elements: the design of the tool, the materials it is made from, and how it is manufactured. Quality is certainly better when you have strict oversight over all three of these elements, and it is certainly easier to oversee if all elements are in one area of the world. At Klein, we strive to make as much as we can close to home. We also strive to find the best designs, materials and manufacturing available. This allows us to make the best tools, regardless of where the tool is made.
DeArment: We believe the best tools are made close to home, and that’s right here in the U.S.A. When someone uses our tools, they can rest easy knowing they are receiving the highest quality product available and are supporting the U.S. economy. Even our materials are U.S.-based. We use high carbon steel for superior performance on the job and an ultimate rust preventative coating. We also believe that our employees make a difference. We live by these principles: Good management is never far from the factory floor; people count more than machines; bigger does not always mean better; dedication to excellence is the surest way to surmount adversity and to prosper.
Behe: At Leatherman, we believe manufacturing our product in the U.S. makes a difference, not just in terms of quality of our product; it means something to our consumers in our own local community of Portland. From a manufacturing and quality control standpoint, we can make real time decisions about our product because our global headquarters are in the same building as our factory. So our engineers and product development team can go out on the floor at any point during the day to make a sample of a new product or perhaps conduct quality testing.
Is there a growing movement among consumers to buy U.S. made products?
Klein: Our customers have always preferred our products be made in the U.S., and we echo that sentiment. We make 14 times more products here in the United States than we do in any other country. For any of our outsourced products, we invest our time and money into the design and quality of the tool so you are guaranteed the highest-quality product. Knowing that our customers prefer U.S. made tools, we have planned investments in excess of $100 million to upgrade and expand our existing U.S. manufacturing facilities. These investments will continue to grow the number of our U.S.A.-made products.
DeArment: I think consumers take pride in knowing they’re supporting not only the U.S. economy but their local economy as well.
Behe: Yes, there is a movement in this country to have products made locally: to know what they are made of and who made it. For us, that is a huge part in our story. Our founder is from and has lived in Portland his entire life. He has made the commitment to always have manufacturing in Portland to continue creating jobs for our local economy. If you asked him what he is most proud of during his entire Leatherman journey, he would say, “It’s the jobs, creating jobs for people here in Portland.” That message resonates with our consumers as well when they see a company who is committed to job creation in their own backyard of the U.S.
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